The leadership campaign for the provincial NDP came to Qualicum Beach Tuesday night as Adrian Dix, Mike Farnworth, John Horgan, Dana Larsen and Nicholas Simons gave their pitch about why they would be the best bet to run the party.
The focus of the event, one of a series of open houses for party faithful across the province, was health care and what should be done to both preserve and enhance it.
Dix stressed rising health care costs in B.C. are not caused by the public system, but rather, because of increased costs from the private sector.
“For example, the cost of prescription drugs has risen by 385 per cent in the last 20 years,” he said. “That’s 19 per cent each and every year. We can do something about that, by funding the therapeutics initiative that was cut by this government, and by ensuring we get the same deal as Ontario, where the costs are 40 per cent lower.”
Simons stressed the connection between poverty and health, noting that an approach more targeted towards prevention is what the province needs.
“We need to keep people healthy and keep seniors in their homes longer,” he said. “We need to ensure we look at the social determinants of health, which are primarily based on poverty. We need to keep the cost of pharmaceuticals affordable and use other methods to ensure we reduce the growing demand on our health care budget.”
Mike Farnworth said the province should invest in seniors’ care and preventative care, but stressed what is really needed is a government that stands up for public healthcare, in light of what he sees as continuing erosion of the public system by the federal government.
“The health transfer agreement signed by Paul Martin that sees health transfers go up by six per cent a year is up for renewal,” he said. “If you think the federal Conservatives will renew it if they get a majority, think again.”
Horgan focused on the need for reference based pricing for drugs, noting the province led the country in the 1990s in terms of keeping the cost of drugs down.
“We have fallen away from that,” he said. “If you look at the donor list to the Liberal party, you’ll see why. We need to invest in home care and community care, which are the lowest-cost options for preventative healthcare. We need seniors’ wellness centres, so seniors can go out and find out how they’re doing without going to the emergency room or their GP.”
Larsen stressed the need to allocate health resources where they’ll do the most good and get the most bang for the taxpayer buck — prevention.
“One of the key things is that 80 per cent of our health budget goes to people with chronic, long-term illnesses, and many of those can be dealt with earlier on,” he said.
The NDP leadership vote will be held April 17 at an assembly in the Vancouver Convention Centre.